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How Do You Build a Stockpile on a Budget?

“I love all of your tips! But I’m curious if you had a larger budget when you first started meal planning backwards? How did you start building your stockpile?”

I got this great question on Instagram a few days ago and I answered it a bit on Instagram stories. But I thought it was deserving of a full post with more explanation.

First off, if you’re new around here, I do something called “Reverse Meal Planning“. Basically, that instead of deciding what sounds good and planning a menu and grocery list based upon that, I plan our menu based upon what we already have on hand and what is on sale at the store.

This saves us a lot of money because it allows us to plan our groceries around rock bottom sales, deals, and markdowns. Yes, it means we sometimes get creative and I often tweak recipes or make them up altogether based upon what ingredients we have, but I view it as a fun game!

How to Start a Stockpile on a Budget

To plan your menu based upon what you have on hand, you first need to, well, have some stuff on hand to work with and plan for! How do you build up that stockpile — especially if you are on a tight budget? Here are my suggestions:

1. Set Aside $3-$5 to Put Toward Buying Ahead

Every week, look at the store sales flier or the clearance/markdown section of your store and determine what you’re going to invest your $3-$5 in. Look for items that are shelf-stable or can be frozen (if you have freezer space) and are at least 50% off their regular price. In addition, make sure they are items you very regularly use (it’s not really saving you anything to stock up on stuff you won’t eat or use!)

How Does This Practically Work?

For instance, let’s say that this week, the kind of deodorant you usually buy is just $0.75 by combining a sale and a coupon. You don’t need to buy deodorant yet, but it’s regularly priced at $2. So, you spend $0.75 of your stockpile budget on deodorant and put it on the stockpile shelf in your bathroom cupboard to save for when you run out of deodorant.

Then, bread is on sale for $1/loaf and it’s usually $2/loaf. You go ahead and buy an extra loaf and stick it in the freezer for next week. Finally, pasta that is usually $1.50/box is on sale for $0.75/box with a coupon and sale. You buy two extra boxes and stick them in your pantry.

You’ve spent $3.25 and saved $4.75 — and you’ve added 4 items to your cupboard/freezer for the weeks to come. It might not seem like much, but if you do this every week, pretty soon, you will have built up a nice stash of extra items that you’ve purchased for at least half the price you’d regularly pay.

Thank you to JennyOntheRidge for sharing this via Instagram

2. Gradually Increase That Amount

After 4-6 weeks of buying items ahead, you should be able to plan some of your menu based upon what you have on hand. This should also free up more room in your grocery budget for you to put toward buying more items ahead. So maybe instead of allocating $3-$5/week, you could now set aside $8-$10/week. This could allow you to buy 8-12 extra items and you can then even more quickly stock your pantry/freezer!

Best of all, in each case, you are saving at least 50% of the price of what you would typically pay! The more you do this, the more bang for your grocery buck you’ll get.

Thank you to Kimberlee at The Peaceful Mom for sharing this tip.

3. Eventually Work Toward Buying 40-50% Ahead

As you continue to practice Reverse Meal Planning and build your stockpile, you’ll gradually get to the place where you can spend at least 40-50% of your grocery budget on building your stockpile with rock bottom deals! In fact, there are some weeks when 60-70% of my grocery purchases are for the stockpile!! This is when you’ll really start to see the savings add up — because you’re buying most everything when it’s at its lowest price.

Plus, you’ll have a lot of variety to work from! I’ve found that when we have a good stockpile built up, it’s also easy to practice hospitality or take food to an event without needing to run to the store… because I already have a lot of options on hand!

Another benefit is that you’re often able to use some of your stockpile to bless others with hygiene products or other things they might need, all while on a tight budget!

What tips and suggestions do you have for building a stockpile on a budget?

P.S. Have a question you’d love for me to answer in a future post? Drop me an email through our contact form here with the subject “Question”.

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  • Stockpiling- I use Ibotta and other saving apps as well as coupons. I shop clearance isles. I bank my earning on my cash back apps until December

  • Charlotte says:

    I’m really excited to start trying this! Do you have any tips for keeping the stockpile organized and using it for meal planning? I feel like that’s where I get stuck.
    Thanks for the help!

    • If you check out my Instagram stories today, I share a few tips there. ( I honestly don’t have any sort of system I follow… I just mentally remember what we have on hand and then come up with meal ideas from it on a day-to-day basis. I know that that’s not really helpful to replicate, but that’s what works for us! I think always having a running mental (or actual) list of ideas of meals we can make based upon what we have on hand is super helpful, though.

      If other people have ideas and suggestions on what works for them, let us know1

    • Beth says:

      I think starting with a meal list helps a lot. Make a list of things your family likes to eat regularly – the everyday meals, not so much the special things for a birthday. Then list all the ingredients and sort them into “like” categories. Meat, pantry, frozen, etc. Then use that list to know what to stockpile. Especially aim for items that are used in multiple meals
      When you meal plan try to mostly pick stuff from that list you’ve made and as you stockpile you’ll have the stuff on hand that matches your meal plan. I like to have 2-4 weeks of meal plan done built from the list of things we like to eat regularly.
      Our meal plans shift some depending on the time of year but many of the core ingredients stay the same. I buy a bunch of hamburger when on sale because I know we’ll use it for several different meals. Same with chicken breasts. Pasta is similar. You don’t have to serve spaghetti sauce over spaghetti noodles – you can use whatever noodles you have on hand. One time I’ll make mac and cheese with macaroni, another time with rotini. I keep a variety of beans and frozen veggies on hand because we eat those regularly.
      Having a pantry or shelf like the one in the blog helps a lot with seeing what’s in your “store.” And if you have a large family and enough space then a deep freezer is very helpful.

  • Chris says:

    Great post, Crystal. I am sure it helped a lot of people today. Love seeing a “back to basics” type post, kind of like the early days of MSM. <3

    • If you don’t follow me on Instagram stories, I share this kind of content almost every day over there (so many of the followers there are newer and don’t read the blog). I’m trying to work on getting better about bringing some of it to posts over here, too, because I realize not everyone here has been following for years and some of these types of posts might be helpful to some people here, too!

      • Chris says:

        Really glad to see that, Crystal. I don’t have Instagram so didn’t know that. It makes sense the younger women are there and you would be where they are to help them. I know I helped spread the word about you to my friends when Facebook was new and you started posting there. Your good, common sense advice is needed by all groups, even grandmas like me. 😉

  • Emily says:

    I do this as well and spend about $70 a week on food for 5 (including 3 teenage boys!) and basically only buy milk and fresh fruits/veggies on a weekly basis (and everything else is rock bottom sales.) I aim to always have a month’s worth of food on hand; came in VERY handy last year when the pandemic hit; we weren’t out of anything and I didn’t need to go to the store for a month. So the “banked” food becomes your emergency planning stash as well (I rotate it as others have said and rely on it when we are sick, bad weather hits and I skip groceries for a week, etc) but it’s food that you know you will eat and use, as opposed to some freeze-dried things that you don’t actually want to eat.
    We moved long distance two years ago and had to totally start over… on our budget it took 3-4 months before I had gotten enough sales and caught up on having food stocked. The trick is to know what YOU use on a regular basis and want to cook for your family and not buy anything else, no matter how good a sale it is.
    Most commonly I stockpile pasta, spaghetti sauce, canned beans/corn/tomatoes and then bread, any type of healthy snack, and cereal.

  • Julie Huettl says:

    I learned to stockpile and shop on sale from my mom. We lived on a farm, and she canned and froze garden produce and meats, and pucrchased other necessities on sale. It is a big savings, and far easier to meal plan.

  • Ania says:

    Thank you Crystal!!!! That’s very helpful! Best regards


  • I keep a Sharpie near my pantry and jot the date on the package before storing items in my stockpile. I put the newest items in the back but sometimes they get rearranged. Having the date on the package helps me use the oldest things first.

  • Sarah says:

    Such a practical, helpful post! Thank you!

    We scored some nice metal wire shelves on FB Marketplace that we’ve set up in our extra bedroom. I have canned goods, fried fruit, condiments, and some dry staples like flour, sugar, beans, & rice stacked on those shelves. It does help a lot to have that on hand!

    • When Jesse and I were first married, we used our extra bathroom to store stockpile stuff! (I have no idea why there were two bathrooms in our tiny apartment!! Since we only needed one, I figured the other one would be a great place to store all the extra stockpile stuff!

  • Lea says:

    Such a practical post, Crystal!

    I always make my menu out based on what we have first – for example this week: I had a whole chicken and a pork loin in the freezer, salad green in the fridge and lot of fruit and bread that needed to be eaten. The first things I put on the menu this week were: Baked chicken for dinner one night (super easy in the crockpot/slow cooker), pulled pork sandwiches (also super easy in the slow cooker) using the bread for sandwiches, salad with fruit for lunches for me, and peanut butter and jelly toast for breakfast. Then I started making the rest of my menu round other things in my stockpile and what was on sale.

    It cuts down on food waste, which also saves money in the long-run!

    Thanks for the helpful information,

  • Lori A Stoudt says:

    Excellent post. Thanks! I would love to see more content like this on your blog.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I share lots and lots of stuff like this for newer followers on Instagram, but I’ve shared so much like this over the many years I’ve been blogging here that, for a long time, I’ve felt like you all probably already know this type of stuff!

  • Penny says:

    Getting a second freezer made all of the difference for us. Then, I use a whiteboard hung on my freezer with an inventory, so there’s less waste. Yes – Love these old skool type posts. I don’t have IG, either. Here’s hoping you’ll post new freezer food recipes 🙂

    • Jordan says:

      Using the whiteboard for inventory is such a great idea! -Jordan, MSM Team

    • I haven’t done freezer cooking in a long time — mostly just because my kids are older now and life is much smoother than it was when they were little and getting dinner on the table was so much harder! But if we end up with more littles through foster care, I’m sure it will be something I’ll consider going back to!

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